By Simon Leyland
As the Premier League kicks off again, I thought it was time for another rant.
Every week pundits are keen to tell us that “all the best players want to play in the Premier League” and/or “all the best players play in the Premier League” as a reflection of its superiority and that is simply not true.
While who is a ‘best’ player is a very subjective thing, it isn’t hard to argue that there are far more very good players not playing in England’s top flight than playing everywhere else, just because everywhere else is so much bigger. And if they really did all want to play in the Premier League then they probably would be.
Pundits, newspapers and seemingly Uncle Tom Cobbeldy and all (ask your Gran) like to point to the dominance of the English clubs in the latter stages of the Champions League as proof that it is the best league in the world, but that is merely a product of financial dominance.
Is that what makes a league the best? For ‘best’ read richest? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Rather the massive inequalities of wealth mean a minority dominate the majority. If that is what ‘best’ means then okay, but life is about more than money.
Here’s the truth: there is no absolute objective best. There is no absolute objective worst. We all have different tastes, enjoy different things, dislike different things. High-skill football can be found in every league, as can low-skill football. We’ve all seen players hit 30-yard strikes, sometimes they’re lower-league scuffers, sometimes they’re World Cup winners.
Last week I was watching Spalding Utd play on a cold, wet afternoon, a stiff wind blowing in off the Fens. They had a striker called Oggy. He was big and wide (think the love child of Jan Molby and Benni McCarthy).
With the scores tied in the last minute the ball was knocked up to him on the edge of the box, his back to goal. He took it down, laid it into space to his right, with his right foot, swivelled and belted the ball into the top-left corner with his left foot, all in one silky smooth move.
It won the game and it was the most thrilling thing. One of the best things I’ve ever seen at a football match recently happened in the Northern premier league. Maybe it’s the best league in the world?
This oft-repeated expression is worthless and the misplaced jingoism that sometimes goes with it is ugly. It is mere fluff, mere marketing for the gullible or for those who seem to need to give a hierarchy to everything to satisfy some innate desire to order the universe from best to worse as though it means something when, in reality, it means absolutely nothing.
It is, however, it is without doubt the best league in the world at saying that it is the best league in the world, so that is at least something !
Rant over…..I am off for a lie down.